Scanlan Center for School Mental Health
Teacher and student

Breaking Barriers: 100 Iowa paraeducators selected for new school mental health fellowship  


A cohort of 100 Iowa paraeducators was recently selected for a new mental health training fellowship offered by the Scanlan Center for School Mental Health.

The first-ever of its kind in Iowa, the fellowship will equip paraeducators with skills in mental health literacy, relationship-building, suicide screening, immediate crisis response, and restorative practices, all of which help cultivate an environment of inclusion and wellness within classrooms and schools.  

“Paraeducators play such a vital role in our schools, so I’m thrilled we can empower them through this innovative new mental health fellowship,” said Kari Vogelgesang, University of Iowa College of Education clinical associate professor and director of professional development for the Scanlan Center for School Mental Health. “Paraeducators help nurture and support students. So, when they can develop skills that prepare them to empathetically broach mental health concerns and better understand how to respond to students struggling with trauma or crisis, the entire school community benefits.”  

As part of the fellowship, each paraeducator will attend three in-person trainings this fall and complete online digital courses to further learning and fulfill licensure requirements. The first training will take place in Des Moines on Oct. 27.  

“I am eager to attend the upcoming mental health training being offered to paraeducators,” said Rae Feddersen, paraeducator from Clinton Community School District. “Adding even more tools to my ever-expanding toolbox will help me achieve our district’s goal, to ‘Do What’s Best for Kids.’  

Qualifying school districts will receive $15,000 per eligible paraeducator to cover travel, lodging, and substitute costs for the trainings as well as to invest in the growth of their entire paraeducator program. More than $1 million will be distributed to Iowa school districts to support this program.  

“The number one need facing school districts today may be the shortage of teachers, but a close second is the increasing mental health needs of staff and students,” said Jacob R. Hedger, 7-12 Principal at Logan-Magnolia Community School District. “Paraeducators have a very unique perspective and relationship with students. The uniqueness of the relationship allows for paras to provide support when other adults may not be able to. This opportunity will open up support for students in new and beneficial ways.”

District administrators were invited to submit nominations for the fellowship last summer. Applications were evaluated by a committee of Scanlan Center for School Mental Health staff and affiliated faculty. This competitive fellowship was open to all Iowa public school districts.  

Below are the paraeducators participating in the training: 

Anamosa Community School District (Anamosa, Iowa) 

  • Abby Smith, Strawberry Hill Elementary 
  • Ronna English, Strawberry Hill Elementary 
  • Krystin Peterson, Anamosa High School  

Aplington-Parkersburg Community Schools (Parkersburg, Iowa)  

  • Veronica Uthe  

Atlantic Community School District (Atlantic, Iowa)  

  • Kerri Dennison, Washington Elementary   
  • Julie Phippen, Atlantic Middle School  
  • Mallory Kirchoff, Atlantic High School  

Benton Community Schools (Van Horne, Iowa)  

  • Jami Hall, Benton Middle/High School  
  • Kody DeNeve, Norway Intermediate  
  • Amy Wells, Norway Intermediate  

Bettendorf Community School District (Bettendorf, Iowa) 

  • Samantha Farra, Bettendorf Middle School 
  • Deborah Oliveira, Neil Armstrong Elementary 
  • Melissa Hart, Bettendorf Middle School 
  • Kathleen Van Horn, Bettendorf Middle School 

Boone Community School District (Boone, Iowa) 

  • Amber Degeneffe, Franklin Elementary 
  • Kelsi Papesh, Boone Middle School 
  • Emma Brodgen, Lincoln Elementary 

Center Point-Urbana Community School District (Center Point, Iowa) 

  • Hallie Wenger 
  • Tiffany Bena 

Central Community School District (Elkader, Iowa) 

  • Hailey Funke, Central Middle/High School

Choice Charter School (Union, Iowa) 

  • Jessica Campbell 

Clinton Community School District (Clinton, Iowa) 

  • Monica Nielsen, Bluff Elementary  
  • Angie Richardson, Jefferson Elementary 
  • Kellie Moore, Clinton Middle School 
  • Danielle Lathrop 

Crossroads Academy (Decorah, Iowa) 

  • Crystal Moellers 

Dubuque Community School District (Dubuque, Iowa) 

  • Natalie Mitchell, Prescott Elementary School 
  • Mike Timm, Prescott Elementary School 
  • Leeann Peterson, Marshall Elementary School 
  • Beth Tracht, Audubon Elementary School 
  • Jody Bolsinger, Lincoln Elementary School 

Eldora-New Providence School District (Eldora, Iowa) 

  • Hilary Rohwedder  

Essex Community School District 

  • Carrie Schuster 

Estherville Lincoln Central Community School District (Estherville, Iowa) 

  • Michelle Griese  
  • Laura Sidles  
  • Janella Bodle 

Fort Dodge Community School District (Fort Dodge, Iowa) 

  • Daniella Wille, Butler Elementary 
  • Megan Scott, Fort Dodge Middle School 
  • Mary Johnson, Fort Dodge Middle School 
  • Renysha Newsome, Fort Dodge Senior High 

Graettinger-Terril Community School District (Graettinger and Terril, Iowa) 

  • Brandi Cellan 

Hamburg Community School District (Hamburg, Iowa) 

  • Emily Welch 

Hinton Community School District (Hinton, Iowa) 

  • Sarah Johnston  
  • Addy Huscher 

Interstate 35 Community Schools (Turo, Iowa) 

  • Stacy Schultz 

Iowa City Community School District (Iowa City, Iowa) 

  • Jessica Decker, City High School 
  • Patrick Muller, South East Junior High 
  • Valerie Quarles, Liberty High School 
  • Abigail Schaefer-Van Houtte, Grant Wood Elementary 

Janesville Community School District (Janesville, Iowa) 

  • April Clubine 

Johnston Community School District (Johnston, Iowa) 

  • Wizer Hamilton, Lawson Elementary 
  • Annette Allender, Wallace Elementary 
  • Patty Ostwald, Wallace Elementary 
  • Sonja Florer, Horizon Elementary  

Lewis Central Community School District (Council Bluffs, Iowa) 

  • Howard Iske 
  • Mary Greenwood, Kreft Primary School 
  • Judy Hoppe, Lewis Central Middle School 
  • Kymberlee Veliz, Lewis Central High School 

Linn Mar Community School District (Marion, Iowa)

  • Dave Blum, Boulder Peak Intermediate 
  • Julia Neihart, Boulder Peak Intermediate 
  • Christine Vilardo, Boulder Peak Intermediate 
  • Susan Grensteiner, Boulder Peak Intermediate 

Logan Magnolia Community School District (Logan, Iowa) 

  • Vicki Myers 

Madrid Community Schools (Madrid, Iowa) 

  • Diane Havlik 

Manson Northwest Webster – North Central Consortium School (Fort Dodge, Iowa) 

  • Courtney Preston 
  • Ira Shivers 

Marshalltown Community School District (Marshalltown, Iowa) 

  • Renee Wiegand 
  • Dana Rosacker 
  • Krystal Petersen 

Muscatine Community School District (Muscatine, Iowa) 

  • Lori Shield, McKinley Elementary 
  • Jasmine Mills, Franklin Elementary 
  • Susan Melton, McKinley Elementary 
  • Bre Harrington, Grant Elementary 

North Polk Community School District (Alleman, Iowa)

  • Julie Krehbiel, North Polk High School 
  • Julie Rasmussen, North Polk Middle School 
  • Jenny Schmidt, West Elementary School 

North Scott Community School District (Eldridge, Iowa) 

  • Luci Maxwell, North Scott High School 
  • Denise Frauen, North Scott High School 
  • Karen Cartsen, Edward White Elementary School 
  • Amanda Ohsann, Edward White Elementary School 

Ottumwa Community School District (Ottumwa, Iowa) 

  • Loren Clark, Evans Middle School 
  • Morgan Lockhart, Wilson Elementary 
  • Brenda Anderson, Ottumwa High School 
  • Breanna Weinhold, Evans Middle School 

Pella Community School District (Pella, Iowa) 

  • Stephanie Feree 

Pocahontas Area Community School District (Pocahontas, Iowa) 

  • Michael Spaulding 

Ruthven-Ayrshire Community School District (Ruthven, Iowa) 

  • Darcy Benson 

Seymour Community School District (Seymour, Iowa) 

  • Shelly Hornaday 

South Central Calhoun Community Schools (Lake City, Iowa) 

  • Ellie McChesney 

South Hardin Community School District (Hardin, Iowa) 

  • Courtney Friest 

South Tama School District (Tama, Iowa) 

  • Melinda Martens, South Tama Elementary 
  • Jenna Plum, South Tama Middle School 
  • Jenniffer Gross 

St. Ansgar Community School District (St. Ansgar, Iowa) 

  • Emily Nalan-May 

Tri-County Community School (Thornburg, Iowa) 

  • Adrianne Thomas 

West Branch Community School District (West Branch, Iowa) 

  • Kimberly Linn 

Woodbine Community School District (Woodbine, Iowa) 

  • Rachel Flaitza 

Funding for this fellowship was made possible by a collaboration between The University of Iowa College of Education and the Iowa Department of Education